The data comes from a study from the Catholic University in Campobasso, Italy, a center where wine and health research has been particularly fruitful in recent years. The researchers assessed skin toxicity (redness, irritation) from radiation in each of 3 groups of women receiving different treatment doses. Overall, women who drank wine had a lower incidence of skin toxicity compared to nondrinkers (22% vs. 38%), and the amount of daily drinking had an influence as well. Women who drank a half a glass or less had a 32% incidence, while only14% of those consuming a glass a day experience significant skin irritation. However, the percentage increased as drinking increased above a glass a day, with 2 glasses about as high as none. Those who are familiar with my book Age Gets Better with Wine will recognize this as a J-shaped curve, where moderate drinkers enjoy benefits not associated with abstinence or heavy drinking.
Earlier reports on various types of cancer have revealed that polyphenol molecules in wine, including but not limited to resveratrol, have the effect of protecting cells from the toxic effects of radiation while simultaneously sensitizing cancer cell to it. That would provide an explanation to the findings of this clinical study. What isn’t known, and cannot be directly inferred from this type of study is whether supplements of wine-derived compounds will have the same effect. Clinical trials should provide the answers within the next few years.